CSUN builds virtual computer lab

CSUN’s Information Technology (IT) has stepped into the modern era of computing and now has made available to all students, faculty and staff a virtual computing lab (VCL) that allows them to log in and use software from any computer in any location.

In an email interview, IT executive analyst Danita Leese said the pilot program of the VCL went well.

“Feedback thus far from the various VCL pilots indicates that faculty and students are in favor of the anywhere, anytime access to software,” Leese said.

Leese added there would be further assessment of software that will be put into production in the VCL.

Leese said current programs that are available through the VCL include Adobe CS5, NVivo, ArcGIS, SPSS and Mathematica, among others.

“Post pilot, cost and efficiency savings are expected,” Leese said.

In order to access the VCL, students or faculty must log into the software website and enter their CSUN ID and Password just as they were entering the myNorthridge portal.

They will then be prompted to install the Centrix Client to access the VCL. Once its is downloaded the student can access any software that is available based on their course participation according to the IT VCL reference guide.

The idea of software being available at any time and any place in a remote location rather then on a computer, is referred to as cloud computing by computer scientists.

Dr. Lucy Parker, professor of computer science, said cloud computing is still very new.

“Some people seem to know all about it and some people are still vague about it,” Parker said.

She added there are locations, unknown to the public, where companies such as Microsoft have set up a mass of servers and hardware that the cloud works off of.

“Anybody, anywhere could be tapping into it,” Parker said.

Parker said cloud computing is a way to store massive amounts of data in one place without having to deal with the purchasing of massive amounts of hardware.

Parker added software through Microsoft called SkyDrive offers 25 GB of storage for free.

“On your USB (flash drive) you only have one GB and you have to pay 20 dollars,” Parker said. “You usually leave it behind or you lose it and it’s very prone to viruses.”

Parker said with Skydrive you can also access your information from anywhere and can share information with others.

“Then comes the question of security. It’s really not yours,” Parker said.

Parker said when it comes to cost savings, cloud computing is efficient.

It is significantly less expensive to store data on the cloud than it is to purchase storage space, she said.

“You can go to companies and buy their service and their services and software,” Parker said.

Parker said she doesn’t believe the world will run out of storage space but bandwidth and the ability to access the cloud.

“There’s still plenty of room to build houses in Vegas, but there is only one freeway from here to Vegas. Can that get truckers blocked? Yes,” Parker said.

Parker said cloud computing is starting to shift more towards being used on computing tablets and smart phones.

Dr. Lori Clune, American history professor at California State University, Fresno, said she uses her iPad everyday.

“I see so many students that keeping my calendar up to date is really important because people are always setting up appointments,” Clune said. “So I have my calendar on there (her iPad) and I refer to it everyday many, many times a day.”

Clune said she is aware of cloud computing and sees the advantages for certain files but is still wary of it.

“For certain things, like the draft of my book   that is on a hard drive,” Clune said. “I don’t know if I can trust it if it was completely in cyberspace.”